Austen inspired Staycations

Photo by Elaine Howlin on Unsplash

Is there a better lockdown companion than Jane Austen? Who better to spend a lockdown evening in than the queen of cosy, satirical romance?

And so, with staycations soon to be a possibility as we finally emerge from hibernation, I’ve compiled a selection of Jane Austen-related locations to visit to celebrate your post-lockdown freedom.

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We could only begin with Jane Austen’s final home, in Chawton, Hampshire. While her childhood home no longer stands, Jane Austen spent the final eight years of her life living happily with her sister and mother. It was here that she wrote Mansfield Park, Emma, and her final completed novel, Persuasion. It is quite possible that she also revised her first three novels; Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey while living at Chawton, before their publication.

The Chawton museum houses a number of Jane’s personal possessions, from her dresses to her writing desk.

For more information, click here.

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A visit to Austen’s Chawton cottage simply has to be accompanied by a visit to her brother Edward’s home, the nearby Chawton House, which Jane visited regularly, referring to it in her letters as ‘The Great House’.

Even without the Austen connection, Chawton House is a fascinating visit in its own right for lovers of historical fiction; it is now known for its archives on 18th-century literature by female authors. You can access their online collection here.

For more information, click here.

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While Austen spent the first 25 years of her life at Steventon Rectory, in 1800, her father retired, and the family relocated to Bath. Jane wrote very little while in Bath, and it's debated whether this was because she was unhappy and uninspired in Bath, or whether her busier social life prevented her from finding the time to write.

The Jane Austen Centre is also home to the annual Jane Austen festival. If you’d like to dress up in Regency garb in the hope of finding your Mr. Darcy on the dancefloor, this year’s festival has been given the green light and will be taking place in September. Grab your tickets here.

Amazingly, the house in which Austen lived while in Bath is rentable on Airbnb. Click here for details.

For more information, click here.

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Moving on to the most iconic literary locations from Austen’s novels, we begin with the coastal town of Lyme Regis, Dorset. A key setting in her final novel, Persuasion, it was upon the stone harbour, known locally as ‘The Cobb’, that Louisa Musgrove took a fall into the arms of Captain Wentworth (almost).

Austen visited Lyme Regis herself on more than one occasion, in 1803 and 1804. While it is evident from her letters that she fell in love with Lyme, some Austen historians speculate that she also fell in love with a mysterious suitor during her stay. Sadly, her sister Cassandra, for reasons unknown, burnt many of her sister’s letters written between 1801–1804, and so we can never know whether they contained evidence of a romance with a man in Lyme Regis.

Photo by Ali Gooya on Unsplash

Derbyshire. Of which, Mr. Derby owns half. It is in the Peak District where Elizabeth Bennett begins to change her opinion of Mr. Darcy, and we witness the turning point of their relationship. Thus, it is amongst the most memorable locations in Pride and Prejudice. An area of untamed valleys and gorges covering over 550 square miles, the Peaks are popular with hikers, cyclists, and camping enthusiasts alike. And, it seems bookworms.

Pack your hiking boots and your ‘brolly’, and follow Elizabeth’s footsteps through this beautiful landscape.

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There are many theories on which of England’s great country houses was the inspiration for Mr. Darcy’s home, Pemberley estate in Derbyshire. While it’s possible that Pemberley was a mix of several manor houses (touring country homes, as Elizabeth Bennet does with her Aunt and Uncle, was a popular pastime in Regency England), I would argue that Chatsworth House was the main source of inspiration.

Firstly, both Pemberley and Chatsworth are situated in Derbyshire. Geographical and architectural descriptions within the novel can be said to describe Chatsworth. It is thought, from her letters that Austen visited Chatsworth in 1811 when she would have been revising her most famous novel for publication. We know that she did travel in Derbyshire, staying at the nearby village of Bakewell, thought to be the inspiration for the village of Lambton. You can even stay in Austen’s room at The Rutland Arms, in the village.

Even if you are not convinced that Austen meant Chatsworth as Pemberley, it is still worth the visit; it was used as the film location for Pemberley in both Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, as well as in the BBC adaptation of PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley.

For more information, click here.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

“Badly done, Emma!”

Providing sweeping views across the North Downs on a clear day. An easy walk, it’s a perfect place for a picnic — as in Austen’s novel, Emma. Fans will remember it as the location where Emma earned her most severe scolding from Mr. Knightley, for openly insulting the loquacious Miss Bates.

Unlike in Austen’s day, there is now a visitor centre, cafe, and gift shop to cater for the 850,000 annual visitors.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

No Austen pilgrimage is complete without a visit to her burial place at Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire. We can’t know for sure what Jane Austen died from, though there are many theoretical diagnoses, ranging from Addison’s Disease to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Ignoring the initial symptoms in 1816, Jane deteriorated rapidly within 18-months. By April 1817, she was bedbound.

In May, her sister Cassandra, and her brother Edward brought her to Winchester for treatment. Jane never returned to Chawton. She died in Winchester on 18 July 1817 at the age of 41. Her brother arranged for her burial at Winchester Cathedral, where those who love her novels continue to visit to pay their respects to this day.

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Digital Nomad | Tea Enthusiast | Bookworm

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